Recent Student Success Stories

Here at YSJ Writing, we’re very proud of our student writers, many of whom are getting published all the time. Here are just a few. If you’ve got a recent success and would like to be featured, let us know!

Lynne Heritage: Poem ‘The Reunion’ included in 2015 Poetry Society of the Openlynne University Anthology, Openings 32






Mick Lynch:

Poem and story in Firewords QuarterlyMick firewords

















Janet Dean: janet

Poetry in: Ariadne’s Thread;

Warming Bees;

Hysteria 3; 


Reading at York Stanza Group Off the Page

Clara Challoner Walker:

Story in The Lampeter Review

ClaraRadio interview





Jessica Popplewell:

Winner of 3 writing competitions:

Dark Tales


Word Hut 17

Helen Barclay:Helen


‘Out and About’ in The Oldie

‘Get down and dirty’ in The Duchy Vixen




Max Watt:13

Co-producer of 13 Anthology


Friday Feature! Interview with Marvel Comics writer Al Ewing!

Al Ewing began writing short stories for 2000AD, he then worked on several other projects before moving on to his debut novel in 2007 – Pax Britannia: El Sombra. Currently Al is the lead writer for Marvel Comics’ ongoing series Loki: Agent of Asgard.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing in one form or another since a very young age – once they stopped doing ‘creative writing’ exercises at school, I found other outlets for it – short plays, sketches, short stories and various other bits and pieces. I picked up the basics of comics scripting from a few places – there were samples floating around in things like annuals and Warren Ellis’s COME IN ALONE column – and during 2001 I sent off my first submission to 2000AD, which was accepted the following year. That was the first time I was ever paid for my writing, and it all snowballed from there – I gradually made more sales and got some assignments, and after ten years or so enough people were paying attention that I could get American work.

Do you prefer writing shorter stories or long arching narratives?

I tend to prefer short stories – usually my longer narratives are made up of shorter stories, with each issue or chapter being relatively complete in and of itself. I enjoy long-form narratives, but I prefer to have a rough idea of the ending in mind and then find my way to it organically in short jumps, rather than have the whole thing plotted out from the get-go. I usually have the big beats in mind, and let the rest come together naturally.

Any advice for writers wanting to get into the comics industry?

Don’t rely on being noticed. Don’t rely on anything, in fact.

Start small and finish what you start.

If there’s somewhere, like 2000AD, that accepts unsolicited submissions, read their guidelines carefully – don’t send in something badly spelled and wrongly formatted and expect them to look past it, because it’ll go straight in the bin without a word read.

Nobody owes you a second glance or even a first one.

If you can’t tell a story in a maximum of two pages – and I’m being generous – you’re not a writer, so learn to do that first.

Try not to bother working writers while you learn – writers aren’t editors, so the help they can offer is limited, and if you can’t develop a realistic sense of how good a piece is when you read it back, you’ll never amount to anything anyway.

Persevere, because you will be rejected many, many times.

On the bright side, what with the web and various self-publishing tools, it’s never been easier to write something, finish it, and get it drawn and self-published. Nothing is holding you back from getting something out there – even if not paid for – except yourself.

Do you think that, with the success of superhero movies over the past few years, the market for new characters has been harmed in any way?

I suppose audiences are more comfortable with characters they know, but that’s been the case for a long time – since before the recent superhero movie boom. Having a book with an entirely new character has always been a bit of a gamble, and to be honest I can’t think of the last one that really took off. I don’t know how Talon’s doing with DC – that’s probably the newest example.

What’s your creative process like? Do you need to be in a darkened room with a specific drink at hand? Or is it more social for you?

At this point, deadlines are very useful. If someone says ‘we need this in a X days’, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. Not that I’m not motivated before then, but I have a tendency to noodle a little in the early stages and having a clear goal-line in mind is a huge help.

Solitude is good for working, music is good – I find playing the same track over and over until it’s just a general mood that doesn’t impinge on your consciousness can help a lot. Caffeine is good, but I’m trying to cut back. The internet is great for easy research, but bad for keeping focused – distraction is only a click away. It can take a lot of willpower not to succumb, but again, if I’m up against a tricky deadline I find myself getting very focused.

Showers are good for working out thorny plot points. Without fail, there will be a part of any issue I get badly stuck on and have to walk away from – take a shower, walk to the post office, do the washing up. Usually the answer that comes to me is to remove something I was clinging to, which turns out to be the thing that was stopping me from finding the easy solution.

In your opinion, what is the best way for a new writer to get a publisher to read their work?

Get published elsewhere first. Which sounds like a Catch-22, but with the exception of that very first unsolicited submission, it’s how my career has worked. That’s why it’s so important to have places like 2000AD that accept unsolicited submissions – and why it’s so important to put your own stuff out as much as possible. Even if it doesn’t help, it can’t hurt. It’s practice.

At some point every writer will receive a rejection letter, what’s your coping mechanism for when that happens?

Look at what was wrong and try not to do it again. If there’s no indication of what was wrong, it’s a bad rejection letter. Either way, get back on the horse as soon as possible and start thinking up the next idea. A rejection letter is permission to send a new thing.

Do you think writers should constantly be publicising their own work? If so, how?

I think writers should, in the modern age, attempt to publicise themselves. I have no idea how to do it. Cultivating a cult of personality is one way, but that can trap you in a persona – I was “the weird writer” for a while, and it limited me. These days I enjoy being a virtual hermit, within reason. I try to be open and friendly, thank people when I can and answer any question I’m asked as politely and professionally as possible. But I like keeping my interactions relatively private and personal.

That said, I think if I was doing a creator-owned book, I’d be much more pro-active about spreading the word far and wide.

Who is your favourite superhero and why? Has it changed because of who you’ve worked for?

When I was a kid, I liked the Hulk, because he was big and green and viscerally interesting, and then because I was the right age to appreciate the intricacies of Peter David’s run. I don’t think I have a favourite superhero these days – Morrison’s Batman came close, but once he left the character lost me. My favourites these days are probably the ones I’m working on – I have a huge attachment for Luke Cage and company. But then, that’s part of the job – you find yourself caring very strongly about the characters you write.

Any sneaky hints about your newest series, Loki: Agent of Asgard?

It’s a lot of fun! I’m enjoying seeing the reaction online to each new twist – and there are a lot of twists coming. Beyond that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Friday Feature: Interview with Benjamin Goldsmith


benji goldsmith portrait

Benji Goldsmith is a writer of comics and resident comics expert at Travelling
Man in York. He runs sequential art workshops for school children, is a proud
member of York based writers group, and is currently working on a comic with artist Abz-J-Harding.
They plan to release the book in both web and print format later this year.
Benjamin was born in Coventry, England and raised in Cheshire. He originally
started out as a sound engineer and music producer, moving to the area of
Teesside in 2006 where he obtained a B.Sc. in Music Technology with frst-
class honours. 
 Since graduating University Benjamin has done everything from providing a
sound installation for The Old Truman Brewery at Brick Lane in London as part
of Free Range to producing his own electronic music (which has been aired on
BBC Radio) and more recently his work as a flm composer and sound designer
for a multi-award winning flm and animation company based in York called
Glass Cannon.
Benji’s creative focus has steadily shifted over the years towards another of his
greatest passions, comics. He now feeds all of his time, passion, energy and
creativity into writing.


Q Whats your work gonna be about?
A I’m currently writing the first book in a series of comics inspired by the representation of
Wolves throughout history, mythology and folklore. The story is routed in speculative fiction,
quite dystopian in tone and heavily conspiracy laden. It focuses on sociocultural factors and
explores themes such as industrialisation, social inequality, spirituality and identity.
Q How did you find the artist to work with?
A It was actually a case of serendipity. The artist I’m working with named Abigail J Harding is
a customer at the shop where I work in York called ‘Travelling Man’. That’s how we got to
know each other and also how I discovered her art. I was completely blown away by her
talent and immediately asked her to do a book with me.
Q Which authors inspire your writing?
A If we’re talking comics then Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka without a doubt. In
terms of prose I would have to say Philip K. Dick, H.P Lovecraft and likes of Kerouac. I have a
broad taste in reading.
Q When do you find time to write?
A I carry a notebook and a pen with me everywhere I go and tend to use my phone a lot for
note taking. I write at every spare minute I get, which is most evenings and whenever I have
time off from work. I have a strong work ethic and tend to give myself very little downtime.
Q How have you scheduled yourself?
A I set myself fairly rigid goals and objectives for every month and then every week. For
example with the book i’m currently writing; I aim to have the outline and structure for the first comic finished by the end of April and then scripting will be completed throughout May.
I’ll then break those sorts of things down into smaller milestones week by week to ensure I
keep on top of things.
Q Do you have anyone proofread for you as you go?
A I’m part of a writers group based in York comprised of friends who also write for comics. Through that group I’m able to gain valuable feedback and commentary on my writing, it’s like having a team of editors. I think a fresh perspective is always welcome and absolutely invaluable.
Q How have you gotten the connections in the industry that you do?
A I’m quite lucky because I work for a chain of independent comic shops which have strong
ties to the industry and association with things like ‘Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival’.
This undoubtedly affords me greater opportunities to network, make contacts and get advice
and guidance from people in the industry.
Q What other works have you been involved with?
A I’m a fresh face. I worked/studied as a sound engineer and produced electronic music for
years. My focus seems to have naturally gravitated towards writing over time. My fathers a
writer and a poet amongst other things, it could be his influence on a subconscious level
perhaps. It started off with a bit of work writing reviews for comics blogs and then I began
submitting pitches for short stories to comics anthologies; one of which was accepted recently and i’m about to begin scripting for. I’m basically working as hard as I can and throwing myself head first at the industry. The aim with the book i’m currently working on is to have a 6-page preview printed and ready to take to DICE (Dublin International Comics Expo) in late September, to publish the comic online shortly afterwards and then launch the comic in print around mid November at Thought Bubble.
Q Know of any good alternative literature events for people?
A I was hoping you guys could maybe tell me about one or two…as a writer trying to break into the comics industry it’s all about the conventions for me, but I’m always open to writing for different mediums and being involved in anything that might help me improve my writing skills.
Q Dogs or cats?
A Definitely cats, they’re naturally aloof, clean, tidy and good at taking care of themselves….a
bit like me 🙂

Important Links:

Friday Interview with Helen Cadbury


Helen Cadbury was born in the Midlands and brought up in Birmingham and Oldham, Lancashire. She writes fiction, poetry and plays and is currently working on a sequel to To Catch a Rabbit. Currently she is a York based writer whose debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, is joint winner of the Northern Crime Award and was launched by Moth Publishing , May 2013.

new cover

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

When I was five, I wanted to be a writer (although I couldn’t actually write), an actor or an ice cream man’s assistant. I enjoyed writing, once I got the hang of which way round the letters went, but got distracted by an acting career and didn’t really settle down to write until I was 40. I have never sold ice cream, so I have that to look forward too.

Would you say there are writers out there that everyone who wants to write should read?

I think anyone who writes should read good writers, in a range of genres. Occasionally read ‘bad’ writing, but not too often, as it will depress you that such a thing got published and may influence you in the wrong way. In crime, I would recommend Denise Mina, George Pelecanos, Mark Billingham or Louise Welsh for stylish prose, interesting characters and gripping plots.

What made you write a crime novel?

All the best stories are crime stories. Look at Red Riding Hood, for example. I started off trying to write what I thought was a literary novel, but once I began to pursue the idea of someone going missing, then the idea of a crime obviously presented itself.

What sort of research did you have to do to write /To Catch a Rabbit/?

I did most of the research towards the end of the writing process. When I had a full manuscript, I showed to a serving PCSO for feedback. I also went to a very interesting talk on forensics at the Harrogate Crime Festival, which led me to know what else to look for on the internet. I don’t do massive amounts of research but I did find a very useful YouTube video of a burning car, which was obviously more practical than trying it out myself.

What’s your creative process like? Do you need to be alone to write? Coffee shop maybe?

Agh! If only I had a routine or anything I could reliably call a process. I’m a bit nomadic actually, moving from the kitchen table, to my bed, to the library, depending on my mood. I find coffee shops are better for writing poetry, as I can get too distracted by what’s happening around me to stay in the world of a novel.

Was it a surprise to win the Northern Crime Award?

Yes. It was amazing. You hope for something, then it happens. The only other times I have felt quite so happy was finding out I was pregnant with my sons.

Do you think that writers, especially non-prize winners, need to be constantly going to signings and events to publicise their work?

I quite like public events, because I’m an extrovert, and I go quietly bonkers shut up indoors all the time, but some writers find them more difficult. I think it’s very hard to assess how worthwhile they are in terms of book sales, but I’m sure they help with word of mouth. If readers find it interesting to meet authors, then it is valuable. Social media may be more effective, but if you’re not doing any events, what are you talking about on social media? Where are the pictures to prove you exist?

How’s the sequel coming along?

The sequel is with my agent and making it’s way, I hope, towards publication, but it may still need a bit more work, we’ll see…

Do you have any advice for getting published? Such as important things to include in a query.

This is probably a whole different article in itself, but fiction writers need agents. Competitions or awards can really help you to get noticed and get an agent. If you’re writing directly to an agent, talk about the book. Like any exercise in selling, you need to show why it is unique and why they might want to represent your book. Consider small presses, they are more likely to publish an unagented writer.

What about more general advice for aspiring writers?

Writers write. And read other writers. And re-read what they write themselves, to get it right. You may not be able to keep up with all the films, TV series, parties that non-writers are into, especially if you are a fiction writer. It is very, very time consuming, but if you love it, you won’t care. Oh, and if you are not intending to be single for your entire life, fall in love with someone who loves you enough to put up with you being a writer. It will make you extremely anti-social and is very unlikely to make you rich.

Interview with Sam Glover, L.A. Film Fest award winning Producer.

Sam Glover, Producer.

Sam Glover is an innovative and enthusiastic MA Film Production graduate from York St John University, currently working on a part-time basis whilst starting up a media production business, Reverse Frame. A talented graphic designer and filmmaker with a passion for the performing arts, Sam produced the short film Persistence which swept the board at the LA Film Festival 2013.

Have you always wanted to be involved in Film?

As far as I remember I have always had a passion for film. However I started in the theatre from a young age. I was trained from about 12 as a theatre actor, doing a number of things from Shakespeare to comedy. From there I got a real interest with the production side of entertainment and from then on in I have been focusing on film production.

What did your role in the filming process entail?

I had quite a few jobs on that production. Overall I was the associate producer and graphic designer. My jobs were assisting Sebastian with the conceptual side of developing the project. With regards to producing my job was focused on the pre production side of the project. In the graphic design side of production my responsibility was with the whole presentation of the project, from logos to posters but also within the development stage. My job then was making sure that the presentation of the project to prospective investors or colleges was the image that we wanted to present. They needed to understand the project before they read the treatment.

Any tips for others wanting to get involved in the industry?

 The tricky thing about getting into the industry is that with so much saturation of content a lot of the old ways of applying for work in this field are no longer an option. The best things I can say is if you want to work in this industry then you need to be in the right place at the right time. Places are always looking for new runners you just need to get yourself into a position to take those opportunities. If you want to be a content maker I suggest find a team you can trust and start making ideas. Everyone starts making their own projects somewhere and this isn’t a lonely industry. Get your friends and start shooting your own ideas. You can only get better.

 How was the film marketed?

The film was mainly marketed through social media channels and film festivals. The intent of the film was it to be recognised for festival distribution and eventually to be streamed online. Which you now can see on Vimeo.

What is your creative process? Are you inspired by your surroundings or music for instance?

I am a huge media nerd; most of my ideas are created from all the media I saturate. All ideas have to start somewhere and once I have an idea for a project I then ask a simple question, what is the foundation of the idea? What is it I want to say with this concept? No matter what else I think of in regards to a concept this is the question that makes or breaks the project.

 How long did the scripting process take?

For persistence the scripting process took a couple of months to develop but the research Sebastian did was rather intensive so he had a lot of material to perfect to storyline with.

How long did the overall project take?

Overall it took about 8-10 months to complete

 Do you think the awards the film won will help you in future endeavours?

Potentially yes, Sebastian and I are developing a few ideas and hopefully the awards Persistence won should be a good foot in the door to get some attention when the time comes.

Have you taken anything from the process and applied it to other projects?

Yes the major thing I have taken from that project is how much attention to detail and in depth research needed to create a project of that magnitude. This film really is a testament to the idea that films cannot be made in a bubble, they need a good reliable hardworking team to surround the project in order for you to get such a good quality product from it.

 What will your next big creative project be?

Currently I have just completed a proof of concept piece, Faust which is a short film written around the character of Dr Faustus asking the question what did he do next. We are currently developing that idea into a series concept. On the other side of the coin I am currently developing a web series with George Ellery called “Writers Room” a too many cooks comedy concept about the discussions between creative minds and putting the audience right in the middle of their collective imaginations.


Interview with Sam Sleney


Sam Sleney
Sam Sleney


Sam Sleney is an English literature and creative writing student born and raised in grim Sheffield. He’s worked closely with historians and illustrators to refine an interest in dark fantasy and graphic novels, the works of which he’d like to publish someday.

Some info first:

Playtester – Plays the unfinished versions of the game to find bugs and faults, offering ways to fix the game as they go.

RPG – Role Playing Game.

GM – Games Master, the person who runs the game.


How did you assist in the invention of Sins?

On Sins I was a playtester and fed ideas back into the project. When I joined the project it was quite late on in the conception but a fair few ideas were implemented and changed as I was helping out. I joined about a year into the project and saw it finalise. The universe was fairly well established when I joined but I believe a fair bit of how we played and the storylines our gm played out for us and how we resolved them helped shape the games universe. Playtesting and the fact the main writer was a friend of mine gave me a pretty critical understanding of the business.

What advice do you have for people who would want to write their own game?

I don’t know about the research because the initial stages were way before my time but I’d say that for advice, just stick with it. A lot of time has to go into it. We had many weeks worth of sessions cancelled simply so rules could be replayed and replayed for balance. It’s a lot of judgement, maths and like in the sessions, arguing with others over what works best. There were two groups testing the game, ours which was made up primarily of averagely experienced roleplayers and Sal, the other main writer on the project. He used to be a physicist and did most of the mathematical balances. Mike, the main writer was our gm, so to have him as gm was amazing. The other group were hardened power gamers; some were roleplayers of 20+ years and owners of hobby shops. They were playing a combat heavy campaign with top level characters purposely pushing the limits of combat ruling trying to break the game.

What size team did you have working on the game?

Aside from the two test groups, the main team was Mike and Sal, with mikes fiancé rusty handling the formatting and typing. The fact that the team was so small and they’ve produced such a complete text and idea showed me that if passionate people get the opportunity to give themselves to a project you can make something great

Mike and Sal poured themselves into the project wholeheartedly that it made our weekly contributions seem insignificant to their often all nighter balance checks, but I know that every session held the potential for us to ask a question or do something they hadn’t considered – which happened almost hourly.

How long did it take from inception to completion?

Inception to completion was around two years and I think that helping on the project definitely inspired me.

Mike devoted himself to it fulltime and that’s why Sins came to relative completion in just under two years, but it inspired me to the line of thinking that if you have any kind of enthusiasm for something you should give yourself to it whenever possible regardless of schedule

Do you think writing it helped your own writing improve?

Being gm’d by mike inspired my roleplaying and gm’ing massively. To write a good story you need great characters. Mike never wrote stories for sessions, just characters. Roleplaying is an open story and you can never accommodate for what players do to your carefully laid plans. You could write the most touching epic but your players could kills its tragic hero straight up over nothing, so you need to write not only that tragic hero but also others he’d know. With RPGs, you often need plot armour too and you better be ready to be able to explain it. I think roleplayers make the best critics because they really put themselves into a story with an inquisitive mind. They have to; it’s what drives them in the hobby.

Mike’s currently put a Sins expansion on hold until full distribution but he cut me in on a lot of info he’s planning for that so I can’t wait to incorporate it into my own games and stories. Telling stories in RPGs is different to writing them because you have to be ready on your feet and if your players are paying attention, they will be too, so you can’t take anything back. You gotta know your material can at least stand. Anyway Mike’s working on a tabletop RPG now and it goes to show that if you’ve got passion for a hobby or industry you should pour yourself into whenever possible.

Has doing the project given you more confidence to try other more ambitious work?

Having seen the work that goes into a fully completed RPG now, I’d be willing to undertake it myself, definitely.  Perhaps not the maths side of things, but you clearly need multiple people with various skills.

Any tips for sticking to a schedule for people who can’t?

Keep a notebook on it. Then you can contribute to it in a few seconds, whenever you’re inspired. When you’ve got time sit down, look at your notes and compile the best. I do that for planning my sessions and I find I have my notes finished before I know it, I do it for my creative writing too and ill often rewrite the same paragraphs or passages repeatedly and then take various bits from each to create a finished piece.

Everything’s a collection of multiple ideas. Sins wouldn’t be what it is without a multitude of various ideas from different sources coming together through a small filter of 2 or 3 people. Reduce that filter to one person for a singular story rather than a set of rules and establishments for an RPG world framework and that’s how you get good ideas. That’s what I believe anyway.


Interview With Indie Comic Writer Jack Fallows


Jack Fallows
Jack’s Self-Portrait

Jack Fallows is a comic book artist and illustrator from Newcastle Upon Tyne. He has been self-publishing comics for the last 12 years and reading/making them his entire life. He worked at the Travelling Man comic book shop for 5 years, where he founded the Paper Jam Comics Collective in 2007. Between 2008-2011, he delivered workshops in schools, libraries and youth centers teaching young people how to make their own comic books. This eventually led him to pursue a career in primary teaching. His work has been sold and exhibited internationally and his latest title Axolotl has been reviewed highly. For more information on his works, go to:


What inspires you most? Do you act on all inspiration or choose which ones will be worth it?

I consume quite a lot of art and I think that’s an important thing to do regardless of which creative sector you’re working in. I’ve had movies inspire my music, I’ve had paintings inspire writing, I’ve had music inspire comics etc. I find artists who care about their craft and who have something new to say most inspiring. But what motivates me to sit down and do things is really just looking back over the last thing I did and hating it. It sounds kind of cynical but being able to pick fault with your own output, striving to make it better and wanting to make sure it isn’t the last thing people see before you die really lights a fire under you. 

If you do any contract work or commissions do you just do what they’ve asked for or strive for something inspired?

It really depends on the client. I do a lot of commissioned work in the local music scene here in Newcastle and that’s always a lot of fun. Lots of the bands and promoters know my work now and give me a lot of free reign to take the seed of an idea and put my mark on it. Because I teach full time now and don’t need the money as much as when I was self-employed, I’ve decided these are the only commissions I’ll be taking on for the foreseeable future now. It can get extremely arduous and self-deflating working with clients who are trying to get an end result from you based on work they’ve seen by other artists, without really considering your own merits or limitations. Unfortunately, even as a freelancer, you mostly have to subscribe to the motto of ‘the customer is always right!’

Have you ever started writing anything and changed it radically mid-way through because you’ve been inspired differently?

I don’t think I’ve ever sat down with an idea and stuck with it right until the end. Even the act of creating something changes it from an abstract notion in your head to a concrete thing in front of you. A lot of the time, I’m making decisions as I go, especially with illustration work and with prose. Comics don’t have quite as much leeway because you have to consider everything at the same time but they do constantly evolve and change.
Is it okay to have multiple projects going at the same time?

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I’ve spent most of my creative career under the assumption that it isn’t okay to have multiple projects going at the same time. In the last year or two, however, I’ve been trying it out and the results have been incredible. Instead of trying to plough through those not so enjoyable projects and really struggling to motivate myself, getting behind on deadlines, scolding myself etc. I’ve been balancing those out with other, smaller and easier jobs. That means all the projects are getting done faster and to a better quality, and I’m not going gradually crazy. I guess everyone works differently but I’d definitely recommend trying it both ways to see what works for you. Of course, the danger with taking on multiple projects is spreading yourself too thin and not being able to manage time properly. But as long as you’re sensible and keep dates and deadlines in mind, you should be okay!

How do you begin your writing/drawing?

It’s different for each project. With longer stuff like The Big Bang, I started by deciding on everything that needed to happen in an issue. Then I broke that down into events, pages, panels etc. Then I wrote a script for the whole issue and kind of did thumbnails as I went to make sure everything flowed okay. After that, I took it a page at a time and pencilled, inked, scanned and shaded each page in order, on A3 paper that would be reduced to A5 for print. But I found this really laborious so I’ve taken a completely different approach for my new (and I believe, better) title Axolotl. A lot of this, I’m making up as I go along. It’s an anthology of short strips, so I can dip in and out of each story depending on whether the ideas/motivation are there. This way, nothing is forced and I’m having fun doing it – which will always improve the quality of the output. I’ve given up on adding greyscale because I don’t think the results are worth the effort – at least not with my work – and I’ve been enjoying the challenge of making striking images in pure black and white. I’m also working entirely in A5 Moleskine sketchbooks now and drawing when I’m out and about in coffee shops and pubs etc. which breaks up the monotony of sitting at a drawing desk alone for 8 hours and gives the stories more context.

What about music, do you do lyrics or music first?

From time to time, I’ll be humming away and come up with a little song in my head that I’ll then set music to. But usually, I just mess around with different instruments and if a nice sounding riff or melody emerges, I’ll let the mood of that dictate what the song will be about and set lyrics to it. I love making and performing music but I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing, most of the time.
Do you then use an editor to finalise your work?

When I’ve worked on anthologies, there has usually been editorial input. Alexi Conman worked as a co-writer and editor on The Big Bang but that was a very natural, collaborative kind of arrangement. If I’m self-publishing, I take complete, megalomaniacal, creative control over everything that happens. I think listening to and acting on feedback from peers is really important though, so I’ll often take works-in-progress along to the Paper Jam Comics Collective meetings to see what people think.

When you were younger did you decide to become a writer/artist/musician/teacher?

Since I was about 5 years old, I’ve always enjoyed writing and drawing and making comics and playing songs. I think everyone pretty much keeps doing the things that they enjoy for as long as they enjoy them and I’m still not tired of any of it. It wasn’t until I had to start thinking about GCSE subject choices and A-Levels and job prospects that I started researching ways to make money from any of it. While I was self-employed, I started running comic workshops for kids and realised that I loved the creative challenge of teaching and that’s what led me down that career path.

Should new writers accept working for free?

A horrible drawback to working in the creative sector is that unfortunately, yes, it is the industry standard for you to prove your salt for no money to begin with. That’s why it’s best to do this while you’re still in education so that you can make inroads and do some networking before you’re out there in the big wide world. I did a lot of free gig posters while I was at university and that’s why I’m being paid to do posters and album artwork etc. now. Writing and drawing are extremely competitive fields and getting yourself noticed is a big challenge. Equally, you need to realise your own worth and not be afraid to make that step into saying ‘you need to pay me for this service’ when the time is right.

Any advice for aspiring writers or students?

If you don’t enjoy writing or drawing or whatever it is you’re hoping to turn into your career, don’t bother. You’re setting yourself up to either fail or somehow succeed against the odds and be unfulfilled for the rest of your life. Enjoying what you do enables you to keep things fresh, stay motivated, meet deadlines, improve your craft and put out the kind of work that people want to pay you to do. The worst thing that can possibly flash into your brain is ‘Hey, this seems really popular and lucrative, maybe I’ll give it a shot’. I often meet people new to the comics scene, who have seen a handful of superhero movies and come to conventions with an idea for a 500 page graphic novel. You need to take the time to understand what you’re getting yourself in for before taking a dive as big as that otherwise the rejection can be really discouraging. Dip your toe into lots of things and figure out what inspires you the most.

A long time ago you told me that things get so much better after high school. When would you say are your best years?

Hopefully I’m yet to have them! My school years were pretty rough but everyone has different experiences. I think I might have just been listening to ‘You Were Cool’ by The Mountain Goats a lot when we had that conversation.

How do you market your self-published works?

I go to comic conventions, get work stocked in comic shops and use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Etsy and my own personal website online. I’m very proud to say that the comic scene is extremely welcoming of new-comers, so don’t be afraid to use any of these avenues if you’re looking to get involved.

For more of Jack’s writing, artwork and music, go to